What is it?
While it’s best to swerve clichés, sometimes you just have to play the platitudes to avoid having an elephant in the room. So, let’s get the trite bit out of the way from the off: doesn't this new Mercedes C-Class Coupé look rather like a mini S-Class Coupé? And from where I'm standing, that’s rather a good thing.
Whereas the old car was all angles and lines, this bigger 2016 version – it’s 40mm wider, 95mm longer, with an extra 80mm between its wheels – hides its extra metal in gracious swoops and elegant curves, albeit with a bit of glitz (or chintz, depending on your viewpoint) from the diamond-effect grille with chrome pins.
It shares little bodywork with the C-Class Saloon, other than its front wings and bonnet, while underneath there's a new four-link front suspension set-up and an adapted version of the saloon’s multi-link arrangement at the rear. It’s been lowered by 15mm all round, too.
Mechanical springs, non-selectable adaptive dampers and a variable steering rack are the default spec on the entry Sport model, but if you go for this AMG Line trim, everything is tauter with the aim of greater agility. The big deal is the option of fully adjustable air suspension – a first in this coupé class. It’s a not wholly unreasonable £895, and judging by our experience of it here, is well worth the extra.
What's it like?
It’s noticeably better than the old car. For starters the front end feels more connected and willing to turn in, and in Comfort mode the steering has good assistance, building weight more intuitively than that of a BMW 4 Series Coupé. It doesn’t have buckets of old-school feel, and in Sport mode it becomes a bit too heavy, but you can mix and match the settings to compensate.
In Sport it pumps a bit more air into those springs and feels all the more planted as a result. It holds itself together admirably across ragged roads, and if you barrel into a bend there is a hint of roll, but once it settles, the C-Class Coupé earns your trust.
Even when the stakes are high in long, fast, sweepers, you feel you can rely on its inherent stability and balance. It’s still more of a blunt instrument than a 4 Series, which has a little more finesse, but there’s no doubting its effectiveness.
The Mercedes will outdo the BMW in terms of comfort, however, even in this sportier AMG Line guise. Toggle the Dynamic Select switch back to Comfort and it relaxes the springs, and even on 18in wheels it patters over the worst bumps and ridges. At speed there’s a bit of wind noise from around the door mirrors, plus the tyres kick up a bit of din over coarse surfaces, but the same criticisms apply to the BMW.
While the new, optional nine-speed automatic gearbox is snappy enough when you manually pull the paddles, in auto mode it slurs away through its many ratios without you ever really noticing. And when it’s at a steady 70mph in top gear the engine’s pulling just 1350rpm, so you barely notice that, either.
That said, whenever you need to accelerate, the gruff-sounding twin-turbo 2.1-litre diesel is the weak link, letting out a particularly coarse rumble. It’s reasonably quick, mind, but we reckon the more powerful C 250 is still a better choice, making even more sense in this Coupé than it does in the Saloon.
The interior looks fabulous and far more interesting than anything else in the class. However, when you start fiddling, the sense of quality does feel only skin deep in places; a wobbly bull’s-eye air vent and yet another rattle from a Stuttgart product are a warning that Merc needs to maintain, rather than merely rely on, its reputation for quality.
There’s no denying it’s a great place to sit though, with plenty of space up front plus a superb, low-set driving position and enveloping seats. If you’re tall and faced with a choice between sitting in the rear of a C-Class Coupé or a 4 Series Coupé, do pick the BMW. The Merc is okay for average-size folk, but suffers a noticeable deficiency in both head and leg room compared to its Munich rival. That said, the boot’s a good size, and folding rear seats add to its practicality.
Should I buy one?
Buying a coupé is far more of an emotive decision than practical one. So if it’s a choice between a C-Class Coupé and a 4 Series Coupé, no matter what we say, you’ll probably end up choosing the one that most floats your boat aesthetically.
The good news is that either way you’ll be making a sound decision. Without the luxury of a back-to-back test it seems that the BMW still has the edge for handling, but the Mercedes makes up for that by cosseting you more with its sumptuous ride – at least as tested here. If only that was supplemented by a smoother diesel engine, it might even be a class leader - just like its big S-Class brother.
Mercedes-Benz C 220 d Coupé AMG Line
Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £36,460; Engine 4 cyls, 2143cc, twin-turbocharged, diesel; Power 168bhp at 3000-4200rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1400-2800rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1615kg; Top speed 145mph; 0-62mph 7.5sec; Economy 68.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 109g/km, 21%